Stamford man survives Southwest Airlines incident

Posted: Updated:
STAMFORD -

A Stamford man who was one of 143 passengers aboard the Southwest Airlines 737 that blew an engine and made an emergency landing Tuesday has safely reunited with his family.

The incident left a 43-year-old New Mexico mother dead.

Software consultant Jim Demetros says it happened on his 55th birthday -- which he says he will rename his "life day." He was on a flight to Texas for a conference.

He says about 30 minutes into the flight he heard an explosion, and oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. Chaos erupted for several minutes as the plane dropped about 10,000 feet.

"My immediate focus was to text my wife," he says. "Tell her that I was on a plane that just had an engine blow up. And let her know that I loved her, and tell the kids that I love them."

The National Transportation Safety Board says 22 minutes passed between the explosion and the emergency landing in Philadelphia. 

The victim was sitting three rows behind Demetros on the other side of the plane. Her name was Jennifer Riordan. She worked as a bank executive for Wells Fargo and had two children.

Debris from the blown engine struck and shattered the window near her seat, and air pressure partially sucked her through the hole.

A school nurse and EMT performed CPR on her for about 20 minutes as the plane rerouted to Philadelphia for an emergency landing.

Authorities have praised the pilot, a former Navy aviator, for her "nerves of steel" in making that landing.

Southwest Airlines says it will inspect its entire fleet following its first passenger death in its 51-year history.

Demetros safely reunited with his wife and children a few hours later. He is a frequent flyer who says he plans to fly to California next week.

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